Will the Li-Fi Technology Replace the Wi-Fi?

ITU is preparing to introduce standards for the Light Fidelity or Li-Fi or the popularly known Visible Light Communication (VLC). Some of you may get curious to know its implications on the Wi-Fi. Will this new technology Li-Fi replace the Wi-Fi?

The answer is No.

What is Visible Light Communication (VLC)?
As the terms indicate, Visible Light Communication make use of visible light spectrum. VLC is used for data communications and uses visible light in the range of 375nm to 780nm, which is below the wavelength ranges that current day optical transmission technologies for long distance communication utilize.

In terms of frequency, the above visible light wavelength range spreads from 400THz to 800 THz. Therefore VLC is often called Wirelss light communication or Optical wireless.

VLC is a subset of optical transmission technologies, which uses ordinary fluorescent lamps to transmit signals at 10 kbps. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) offer up to 500 Mbps over short distances.
Systems such as RONJA can transmit at full Ethernet speed of 10 Mbps over distances of 1 to 2 kilometers. A photodiode can receive the signal or in some cases, a smartphone camera can receive the signals.

VLC if fully developed commercially can have applications in ubiquitous computing, since the light-producing devices such as indoor/outdoor lamps, TVs, traffic signs, commercial displays, and car headlights/taillights are used everywhere. Since VLC make use of visible light, it is less damaging for high-power applications because we can identify it and act to protect our eyes.

A Compliment to WiFi
ITU’s standardization committee working on the ‘broadband in-premises networking’ (Q18/15) believes that VLC would be a valuable complement to WiFi. VLC or LiFi and WiFi have their own unique but different strengths. Unique features of VLC can strongly complement WiFi where it faces challenges.

Crowded spectrum is creating real problems in the deployment of WiFi and VLC can alleviate some of those problems. The spectrum is limitless and we have the additional benefit of no collisions with other communications thanks to VLC remaining within the boundaries of the walls.

Attractive Features of VLC or LiFi – Advantages
– Security (Light cannot travel through walls, a feature highly relevant to security).
– Free from interference
– VLC can assist in saving the radiofrequency spectrum.

LED and infrared are capable of transmitting data at rates high enough to support bandwidth-intensive services such as video streaming, interactive gaming, and advanced virtual reality (VR) applications. VLC is also expected to assist in unlocking the potentially multi-billion dollar indoor-positioning market by achieving positioning accuracy superior to that achieved by WiFi.

In an industrial setting that makes use of collaborative robots connected by WiFi, placing a big transmitter outside the factory walls would be enough to disrupt the production line. With LiFi technology, it is not possible as the light signals cannot penetrate the factory walls.

VLC will have its applications in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Standards are crucial to large-scale VLC deployment
VLC represents a meeting of many companies and two quite different industries, the connectivity industry and the lighting industry. Lighting companies like General Electric, Philips Lighting, and Osram had expressed their interest in LiFi technology and therefore it is expected that the VLC standards would be implemented by manufacturers of products such as mobile devices, PCs, VR goggles and VLC dongles.

VLC products compliant with this ITU standard will enter the market very fast, at much the same time as the standard is approved. The new standard, ITU G.9991, will join ITU’s series of standards for home networks connecting in-premises devices and interfacing with the outside world. The standard details the system architecture, physical layer, and data link layer specification for ‘high-speed indoor VLC transceivers’, the VLC access points within lightbulbs.

Author: James

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